Famous People With Axial Spondyloarthritis

Last updated: August 2022

I am reading an excellent biography of Ulysses S. Grant by Ron Chenow, and I am enjoying it. I have completed about 400 of the 1,200 or so pages, and something struck me as interesting.

The first is that at one point in the battle around the defense of Chattanooga, the author describes Grant sitting at a desk and standing up, but he was still crouched over like he was writing at the desk and moved to a stack of papers in the corner and then back to his desk without ever standing up straight. The second happened when Grant was described by another commanding general as always being hunched over like he was falling forward as he walked along the street.

Given those descriptions, I wondered if Grant suffered from axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA).

I looked it up in several places, and sadly I did not find even a mention that Grant might have suffered from AxSpA. Not surprising, because a severe form of the condition (ankylosing spondylitis) was not first defined until around 1890, and the umbrella term "axial spondyloarthritis" was not coined until this century. So the fact that Grant was not identified as having AxSpA is not surprising. Even if he suffered greatly, it is unlikely it would show up in modern literature.1,2

The quietly famous people with AxSpA

Then I wondered who the famous people who have been diagnosed with AxSpA are. It turns out the famous people are mostly quietly famous. You may have heard of them, but you would not be likely to know them if you passed them on the street.

I chose the list from Wikipedia, but before I get started, I caution that Wikipedia may not be accurate and is never authoritative. It is not subject to academic scrutiny and its accuracy is suspect. Therefore, you must read this list, and all references from Wikipedia, with extreme skepticism. With that warning, I do not believe that anyone is going to take my degree away, so let’s look.

Ed Sullivan

Sullivan was the first person I had ever heard of who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis before I was diagnosed. Some of us remember that Sullivan was the Sunday evening star-maker on CBS. With three television networks, the Ed Sullivan Show was the Sunday evening destination from 1948 to 1971.3

Sullivan introduced the Beatles, Elvis Presley, and the Supremes to America. In a world without MTV, the Ed Sullivan Show was the music industry's best place to mix live performances with a studio audience and television. His show also featured Broadway, comedy, celebrity, and impression acts.3

Norman Cousins

Cousins was a writer, critic, and college professor who taught ethics and medical behavior. He was most noted for his work to limit nuclear proliferation. He worked hard to bridge the divide in the Cold War. He started and advocated for several liberal causes in the 1960s and '70s. Cousins also developed an interesting way to deal with his various illnesses. His method was called Laugh Therapy.4

Rico Brogna

Brogna was a Major League Baseball player and coach. He hit the first home run at the opening game of Coors Field in Denver. In 1991 he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis and placed on a daily medication for his disease. This caused the New York Mets to trade him to the Phillies. He later became the national spokesperson for the Spondylitis Association.5

Franklin Gutiérrez (Guti)

Gutiérrez, a major league ballplayer, played for Cleveland, Seattle, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2010 he won the Golden Glove with a fielding percentage of 1.000 in 146 games. In 2013 he was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Then, in 2014, he withdrew from the 2014 season because of AxSpA and irritable bowel syndrome.6

He had a great last week of playing in the major leagues, when in July 2015 he hit a grand slam home run while with the Mariners. AxSpA eventually ended his career. He is now coaching.6

Dan Reynolds

Reynolds is the lead singer of the band Imagine Dragons. As a lead singer, he has had a string of successful releases starting in 2013 and continuing until today. In 2015 he announced he has AxSpA during the band’s legendary Smoke + Mirror’s tour. He also deals with ulcerative colitis and depression. He is a celebrity spokesperson for Novartis.7

See, even if Grant did not have AxSpa, we are still in wonderful company.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AnkylosingSpondylitis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

Do you live with any other conditions in addition to AS? (choose all that apply)